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Winter Weight Woes Can Be Easy to Avoid

As the weather cools down, the weight goes up for most people. And what goes up doesn't always
come down, at least not to where it started. But that winter weight-gain cycle can be reversed or
avoided, says a University of Georgia scientist.

"It's a matter of making little lifestyle changes," said Connie Crawley, an Extension Service food,
nutrition and health specialist with the UGA College of Family and Consumer Sciences.

"Once the weather gets cooler, sitting at home and eating hearty meals becomes more tempting,"
Crawley said. "That's especially true around the holidays. As a result, it's not unusual for people to
gain 10-15 pounds over the winter."

The weight gain can be a normal fluctuation that goes right back down when you become more
active and eat less next summer. But as people get older, they tend to hang on to at least some of that weight gain.

"It's when the weight goes up in the fall but doesn't come all the way back down that you want
to stop and look at the trend," Crawley said.

Winning the weight war, she said, is mostly a matter of becoming more active and making wiser food choices.

"With most people, the activity is the most important," she said. "If you get more exercise, the
improved diet will usually follow."

More exercise doesn't have to mean serious workouts. "It can be as simple as getting rid of the
TV remote control so you at least get up to change the channel," Crawley said.

"It may be taking your lunch to work so you can walk 15-20 minutes at noon," she said. "Even
walking down the hall to talk to a co-worker rather than calling them on the phone or sending them
e-mail can increase your activity level."

If your job keeps you in one place all day, she said, get up and walk around a little every hour.
"Walk to the water fountain but not to the vending machine," she said. "Make it a rule not to eat
at your desk. Many people become computer potatoes at work, not just couch potatoes at home."

Crawley offers some tips for keeping the winter weight down.

  When you watch TV, do something active. This can be housework, a craft or even exercise. At
least keep your hands busy with a worthwhile project instead of a bag of chips.

  Brush your teeth before you clean up after meals or parties. You'll be less likely to snack on
the leftovers. This is a good strategy before you start cooking, too.

  Take a walk after supper. In Georgia the weather is rarely bad enough to prevent a walk at
night. Take along a child, a friend or your spouse. Walk in well-lighted areas, and vary your route,
so you won't become bored. If walking outside isn't safe, look into mall walking or a treadmill.

  Keep tempting foods out of the house. Eat high-calorie foods in one-portion sizes so you will
be satisfied but won't be tempted to overeat. Store all food out-of-sight as an extra precaution against  temptation.

When you do overeat, Crawley said, don't overcompensate by starving yourself the next day. "Go
back to your normal, healthy eating habits," she said. "Eat three moderate meals a day and allow
time for rebalancing your diet."

Maintaining a healthy body weight, she said, isn't a feast- and-fast affair.

"To keep your weight down," she said, "you have to make permanent lifestyle changes."

(Dan Rahn is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

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